If you’ve ever hoped United Airlines would get what it deserves, you may be in luck — courtesy of the U.S. government.
United is an airline renowned for its terrible customer service and its awful passenger experiences. It’s so bad, journalists write think pieces about it, and the company CEO talks about how awful they are every six months, while promising to improve.
The company even has its own Twitter parody account.
Awhile ago, United may have taken it one step too far – at the expense of one of its own.
Daniel Fandrei is a United Airlines pilot who says he was not credited with his employee benefits – his accrued sick leave – while he was deployed to Southwest Asia as Air Force Reserve pilot Lt. Col. Fandrei. He reportedly filed a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
An effort by the airline and Fandrei to resolve the situation failed. This is the airline who lost a 10-year-old girl, after all.
Fandrei is a KC-10 Extender pilot who spent December 2012 to March 2013 conducting mid-air refuelings in support of combat operations in the CENTCOM theater. According to the Justice Department, United did not give him the same benefits as other employees during that time.
The Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ensures military reserve and guard members called to active duty do not experience penalties as a result of their service.
Vanita Gupta, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said Lt. Col. Fandrei’s civil rights are “violated” by United’s behavior, Consumerist’s Chris Morran reported. The DOJ filed a lawsuit with a federal court in Chicago to recoup what the department calls “wrongfully denied employment benefits.”
Under the USERRA, the federal government will file legal actions against things like car repossessions and home foreclosures for activated servicemembers. Fandrei joined the Air Force as an officer in 1990 and started working for United in 2000.
“Lt. Col. Fandrei has made many sacrifices to serve our nation honorably, including spending months away from his job and family,” U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement. “When our servicemembers are deployed in the service of our country, they are entitled to retain their civilian employment and benefits, and to the protections of federal law that prevent them from being subject to discrimination based upon their military obligations.”